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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 09 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros

Courses Camarguaises are bloodless bullfights, unique to Provence, where razeteurs (young men) dressed in white compete to seize a cockade, tied between the horns of a bull. Their only defense is to vault over the boards whenever the bull charges.

Unlike in bullfighting, the bulls are the stars of the show, not the ‘bullfighters’ i.e. razeteurs, even though some razeteurs achieve some local fame and notoriety. Each bull has his own name and identity – some become local ‘heroes’, with long ‘careers’ and even secure an honoury statue. The Camargue bull breed has long been recognised and valued for their speed, spirit, intelligence and fighting prowess (much more than their work ethic), and are specially bred for the occasion.

There are numerous such ‘Courses’ held through the spring and summer months, many accompanying various Provence festivals, but the ‘big one’, the main event, is the Cocarde d’Or that takes place on the first Monday in July. The tournament is staged in the evocative setting of Les Arènes, Arles’ ancient Roman amphitheatre, and includes a colourful parade of traditional costumes. Not only is the best razeteur crowned, but the bravest bull is chosen as well – a great honour for its manade (ranch).

Because this is a bloodless sport, it’s a great way of getting a taste of the tradition of bullfighting, without the gore. It’s also an opportunity to experience a cultural phenomenon in a magnificent Roman setting.

Price from: £8
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 8+
Frequency: monthly
When: April-October
Duration: 1+ hours

Getting there & doing it

Regular summer bull ‘races’ take place in Arles, Saint-Remy and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. For a complete calendar of events check the official website which also has a map pinpointing all the venues across Provence.

For major events, be sure to book tickets in advance via the ticketing agency FNAC though for the weekly bullfights in Arles, you can just show up. It can get quite hot sitting in the stands; bring a hat, sunscreen, cold drinks, and (if you can) a cushion – the stone seats are hard. Note – the lower seats can get unnerving if/when as the bulls charge up against the boards.

The Arles Amphitheatre also hosts various festivals complete with the Spanish-style running of the bulls through the streets, which may be less appropriate. Make sure you pick the right one.

When to do it

The Courses accompany various Provence festivals from April-October; the Cocarde d’Or tournament happens on the first Monday in July. In July and August, there are Camargue races every Wednesday and Friday at 5.30pm.

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Grand Hotel Nord Pinus

Arles, Provence, France[0.3 miles]

A stylish, storied hotel full of character and charm in the historic heart of Arles. Rich in local history, and a favourite of visiting bullfighters.

Official star rating:

Hotel Particulier Arles

Arles, Provence, France[0.6 miles]

Arles’s most luxurious boutique hotel occupies an elegant townhouse dating back to 1824; centrally located, opulently romantic and with a spa, garden and pool.

Official star rating:

Hotel B Design & Spa

Paradou, Provence, France[14.3 miles]

An intimate retreat: ultra-contemporary, minimalist hotel secluded in the olive groves under the Alpilles. Expect high design luxury suites, a spa and a gourmet restaurant tucked under the Les Baux-en-Provence castle.

Official star rating:

Baumaniere Hotel

Les Baux-de-Provence, Provence, France[14.4 miles]

Legendary country hotel and three-star Michelin restaurant, in a magical setting just below Les-Baux-en-Provence.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience


Provence, France

Gorgeous landscapes peppered with beautiful villages, sunflowers and lavender, art-filled towns, lively cultural festivals and exquisite food and wine. Provence is everything you imagined it would be.

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Arles Amphitheatre

Arles, Provence, France[0 miles]

The biggest and one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in France, where 20,000 would come to watch gladiators fight to the death.

Best for ages: 18+ | £8

Arles Museum of Antiquity

Arles, Provence, France[1.3 miles]

An archaeology museum housing a fascinating collection of sculptures, mosaics and much more from the ancient Arles region – artifacts date from prehistoric times until the 6th century AD.

Best for ages: 13+ | £5

The Camargue

Arles, Provence, France[7.1 miles]

A massive, wildlife-filled river delta, where gardians (French cowboys) ride white ponies and herd black Camargue bulls amid vast flocks of pink flamingos. Brilliant for horse-riding, hiking, cycling, and wildlife safaris.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

A low white wall painted with Van Gogh's signature

Vincent Van Gogh Foundation

Arles, Provence, France[0.4 miles]

Arles is world-famous thanks to Van Gogh, but to the city’s eternal regret no one bought any of his paintings. This foundation, in the newly renovated Hotel Leautaud de Donines, is dedicated to art exhibitions inspired by the artist.

Best for ages: 18+ | £9

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View into a graveyard with old ruin walls around

Les Alyscamps

Arles, Provence, France[0.6 miles]

An evocative, romantic Roman burial ground – once the most famous cemetery in medieval Europe. It’s the burial site of the legendary St Trophime and the first bishops of Arles, and remains an important stop on the pilgrimage to Compostela.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Olive oil tasting at Moulin Castelas

Olive oil tasting at Moulin Castelas

Les Baux-de-Provence, Provence, France[16.4 miles]

In the stunning setting of Les Baux, learn all about Provence’s greeny-golden nectar on these free tastings of these award-winning oils. Open all year-round, but short walks through the olive groves and visits to the mill are also offered from June to September.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 2 hours

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The exterior facade and entrance of the St Paul de Mausole, a golden stone building


Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Provence, France[19.6 miles]

The asylum where Van Gogh spent 1888-89 is a masterpiece of Provencal Romanesque, and today specializes, appropriately, in art therapy. His room and reproductions of the paintings he made there are on display, along with temporary exhibitions.

Best for ages: 18+ | £4

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